Monday, January 05, 2015

Excited children

Children in most other countries get excited about the idea of Santa Claus arriving on Christmas Eve to leave presents for them. He only arrives though when they have gone to sleep so is never actually seen by them.

In Spain it is the Three Kings who traditionally bring presents on the night of the 5th January. There is no hiding away though because they arrive in a parade held in most, if not all Spanish towns and cities. So in Bigastro, tonight at about 7pm, the Three Kings will parade along Calle Purisima ending up in the park where a marquee has already been erected. There they will hand out presents to the chosen children i.e. to those whose parents have paid.

In the early years that we were here, the Kings’ helpers handed out gifts along the route and of course sweets to the handful of children who followed the floats along the street. These days there are fewer gifts donated and so it tends to be just sweets. There will still be eager children though with bags to collect as much sugar laden candy as they can carry.

We visited Orihuela for a similar parade last year and it was an eye opener. Being a city, everything was on a larger scale. There were troupes of dancers at the start of the parade, then Disney characters on a float. Finally the Three Kings arrived with a retinue of pages to hand out sweets. That was all very civilised.

Right at the back of the parade though was the main event, a flat bed lorry loaded with cheap gifts that looked as though they had come from one of the many Chinese supermarkets. On strategic side roads were vans with further supplies of these gifts waiting to replenish as needed. At the side were children and adults following along with outstretched arms; all eager to be presented with the many toys on offer. It was a well organised foray, they had large carrier bags to stash their loot and even had others walking with them to salt the booty away. The pages, aware that many had already had their quota, were trying to throw the packages over their heads to the crowd that lined the route. The followers had that problem covered though and leapt up to catch the loot before it could reach its intended recipient.

It made us wonder, were these people so poor that they could not afford gifts for their children on Epiphany or were they just greedy. I have to say that some were remarkably well dressed.

For us, the whole business tarnished the idea of the Three Kings just as the handing out of tons of sweets on Good Friday tarnishes the religious concept of the Easter parades. Giving out free gifts in this way might seem charitable but it does bring out the worst in people and the need for police and security guards to keep the whole process safe only highlighted that fact.  

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